Growing Food On Rooftop Gardens: Montreal’s Microhabitat

I had already heard about the concept of rooftop gardening, but never actually got the chance to experience it first-hand before. This is why I was very excited to get a personal tour of one of the rooftop gardens that Montreal start-up Microhabitat was cultivating, on top of two sister-restaurants in the Westmount area of the city. 

For those of you unaware of the concept of rooftop gardening: it is an organic and sustainable way to grow vegetables, fruits and mint-style leafs for local businesses (like restaurants) or communities. This is something that is not as popular as you’d imagine it would be in Montreal, which is why Alexandre Ferrari (co-founder) decided to put together Microhabitat. The idea is genius: cultivate seasonally and then pick-when-you-need. Alexandre Ferrari came up with the concept when he couldn’t bare to go to commercial-style supermarkets anymore due to the inauthenticity of the foods he would find in there. His studies background at McGill University gave him the boost he needed to kickstart the project on his own. Waste-management and sustainability is truly the main focus of it all: by creating ‘microhabitats’ in different parts of the city of Montreal, you tend to  also create a sense of community and giving back to mother nature by growing-your-own vegetables and fruits. Here’s a little glimpse of what it looks like: 

The whole way there, all I could imagine was that I was going to enter a glasshouse-style garden and that I would have to put on a hazmat suit of sorts, but it wasn’t the case. Alexandre Ferrari came up with the concept of growing these plants in huge barrel-shaped pots that are made out of a sustainable and breathable mesh, aligned and spread out across the rooftop. He even has an intricate way of protecting some of these plants to sustain some of the stuff during our harsh winter-season. 

We visited the rooftop over at Park Restaurant as well as Lavanderia right next door. Both different setups, the rooftop was definitely cool the check out. We had to go up the elevator in this commercial-style building, and then up a little stairwell which took us right to the rooftop terrasse. it was like we entered a location that people aren’t aware of. People walking downstairs are completely unaware of the existence of this rooftop garden, yet once you walk into it all the way up there, it sort of felt like you wanted to tell everyone about it. 

There were many different things to pick from, like eggplants, tomatoes, and seasoning leafs like mint, which I got the chance to taste, and felt like I had fresh breath still 4 hours later. Everything is grown organically, which means that it requires a bit more attention and upkeeping to try and catch plants from being affected by nature in a negative way. At the end of the day, it is also a learning experience for Alexandre Ferrari, who is utilizing his experience to analyze behaviours and learn new strategies and tactics of growing such plants in different conditions. I got the chance to pick an eggplant *insert emoji* as well as eat a true, raw, cucumber. 

Both Lavenderia and Park Restaurant take advantage of this rooftop to incorporate it into their dishes. Alexandre visits the rooftops twice a week to cultivate and bring down items to the staff of the restaurant, then visits the other one to upkeep the second ‘indoor garden’, which is basically a huge glass-window fridge for things like lentils, or sprouts.

This is just the beginning of his ideology, where he hopes to bring this concept to many local burrows, giving the chance to local businesses and restaurants to grow their own specific foods all season-long. 

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